Dudu Busani

Dudu Busani

Tears, cheers, dissatisfaction, and unexpected conclusions marked the various cases heard in the Johannesburg high court this year.

If anything, the R46 million FNB cash heist trial had to be the most controversial.

On April 14, the night before the trial was to resume, a group of men dressed in police uniforms broke into the prosecutor's office and stole files relating to the case.

It turned out the robbers stole copies and left the originals. They were never caught, though.

The trial resumed in May and is still in progress.

lIn January the highly anticipated Jeppestown massacre trial resumed and for three months court 4D was a no-go area - unless you didn't mind a thorough head-to-toe search by rifle-wielding police officers.

At one stage the accused demanded a new judge, claiming presiding Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng was biased.

The judge did not budge and sentenced all 10 men to life imprisonment, acquitted the alleged mastermind and only female and sentenced her accomplice and ex-boyfriend to 20 years.

lStanley Masemola, 20, Mandla Mtshali, 21, and Thabiso Zweli Ganta, 21, made everyone's job easy by pleading guilty to raping and murdering Soweto schoolgirl Thato Radebe, 14.

After describing in gory details how they killed the teenager after a drinking spree, the three were sentenced to 35 years each.

lKhensani Mitileni was 15 months old when she was shot dead while strapped to her mother's back.

She was caught in the crossfire of a shootout between robbers and security guards in the Johannesburg city centre in October 2006.

Her mother, Cynthia Mitileni, watched with tears in her eyes as Judge Nigel Willis sentenced Menzi Hlongwa, 20, Siphamandla Sigidi Gasela, 22, and Phikani Sibongiseni Ngidi, 24, to life imprisonment in March.

lProof that justice can be unpredictable came when Mbuso Ndlovu, 34, the man who hacked his brother with an axe and buried him in his yard, was sentenced to only seven years.

He was acquitted on a charge of killing his nephew, Sandile Ndlovu, and convicted for culpable homicide though he had confessed to killing his brother, Thokozani Ndlovu.

The state failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he meant to kill his brother.

lIn what must have been the most painful moments for two families, Tshidiso Hlongwane, 30, accused of stabbing a couple to death in Soweto, walked free. All this because the police had produced contradicting statements.

Security had to be called into the courtroom when the victim's families bayed for his blood the moment he was found not guilty.

lAfter waiting for four years for justice, Jubriel Tladi's family left the Johannesburg high court in tears and disappointed.

Oupa Lethebe, 44, a former Ekurhuleni Metro Police official, was sentenced to 16 years for her murder.

In 2005 Lethebe shot Tladi, his ex-girlfriend, outside the Vosloorus police station. Lethebe claimed he did not remember what happened, but knew that they were about to get married. He also shot himself in the face and lost one eye.

lIn March Moffat Park serial killer Richman Makhwenkwe, 30, was sentenced to five life terms for murder, 30 years for rape and six for theft.

He was convicted of murdering five people, including his girlfriend, and of raping three of his victims. He committed the crimes between 2004 and 2005.

Makhwenkwe buried his victims' bodies in a veld in Moffat Park. During the trial it emerged that he was the gardener of one of the investigating officers.

lSuspended chief executive Dali Mpofu and his employer, the SABC, played a cat-and-mouse game in the courtrooms.

In May Mpofu was suspended over allegations of misconduct. He took the matter to court and won. The SABC tried in vain to appeal. They suspended him again, he took the matter to court and lost.

lThe murder trial of Mulalo Sivhidzho, who allegedly hired people to kill her husband Avhatakali Netshisaulu, is still in progress.